How cool is this? We have a computer in our hotel room in London! (Okay, it would be cooler if it was a PC rather than a Mac…I am SO not a Mac person…and becoming less of one the longer I sit at this !£%* machine!) But anyway…we’re here and we’re having a great time!
My husband is not crazy about the idea of overseas travel because of 1) the long flight to get there and 2) going through Customs. It DID take a long time to get here (we took three planes because it was $400 cheaper per ticket to do so), but Customs was a piece of cake! Seriously, getting into Canada was more complicated than getting into the U.K. (And I loved how when we got to the Customs area in the airport there were two different lines…one for U.K. and Euro passport holders and one for “the rest of the world.”
We arrived at our hotel around 10:30 in the morning and I wouldn’t let College Student sleep. I thought it would be easier for us to adjust to the time change if we stayed up. So we decided to go for a walk and see what was near our hotel. There’s a lot of traffic in London…and no stop signs (there are lights at the really major intersections, but I have yet to see a stop sign). Imagine our surprise as we stood at the curb wondering if we were ever going to be able to dart across to find that ALL THE TRAFFIC STOPPED FOR US! It happened again the next time we wanted to cross the street. This was very nice! But the third time we wanted to cross, no one stopped. We decided there had to be a system to this…it wasn’t just random as to whether or not traffic was going to stop. Then we figured out what a London crosswalk looks like! (Stupid American tourists)
We picked the right direction to walk…the Thames is just a couple blocks from our hotel…and that’s where all the interesting stuff is around here. We’re very near Westminster, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye…we walked along the river for a while, then decided to go find some food. So we just picked another direction and started walking. The buildings were really cool along this new street…but we didn’t find much in the line of food that way. We did find the Ministry of Defense (which interested College Student!)…we decided the armed guard standing outside was a good indication that this was NOT a place you could tour. So I took a couple pictures of the interesting architecture and we moved on.
We did eventually find a little hole in the wall sort of place for lunch. They had a “carvery” for sandwiches and they also served pasta. The food was WONDERFUL…and relatively cheap.
After lunch we decided we were just too tired to do much more walking…and we really didn’t know what we were walking past, nor did we have any sense of where the things we wanted to see were, so we decided to get one of those hop on\hop off tours. We rode around town on the top of a double decker bus for most of the rest of the afternoon…and when it stopped, we hopped off that bus and hopped on to another one. If it’s your first time in London and you’re really tired, I would recommend this for your first day…it really helped us get our bearings. (The only problem is I wish I’d had a jacket for riding up there…it was open air, so it got a little chilly. But I just put up with it because how often do you get to ride on top of an open air double decker bus? Also made me glad I got that haircut right before we left…my hair would’ve been a DISASTER of tangles after that before!)
While we were on the bus, we found out Elton John lives just a few blocks from our hotel, too!
We got off the bus around 6:00 (excuse me, 18:00!) dead exhausted. There aren’t a lot of cheap food options near our hotel (there aren’t a lot of food options near our hotel period!), so we decided to just go back to the carvery/pasta place we’d both enjoyed so much. Unfortunately, it was only open at noon. But we were both so tired, we decided that was fine, we didn’t need dinner that badly anyway. So we came back to our hotel and went to sleep.
I slept four hours, then woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep for another good two hours. College Student slept eight hours, then woke up, couldn’t get back to sleep for a while…but eventually we both went back to sleep and didn’t wake up until 9:30 a.m. this morning! Neither of us intended to sleep so late. And we had to really hurry to get our free hotel breakfast! But we made it!
Our hop on/hop off tour from yesterday was a 24-hour deal, so it was still good until mid-afternoon. It also included a river cruise. So we headed down to the pier for our cruise. We decided to use that to get us to Greenwich, which is pretty much the furthest place from the hotel we’re planning to go (well, except for Bath and Stonehenge…but we’ve got a tour lined up for that….we’re not really “take a tour” kinds of people…we prefer to follow our own schedule, see things at our leisure etc., but no way am I going to drive in the heart of London and no way am I going to ride with College Student while HE drives here (too much traffic, we don’t know where we’re going…not to mention the whole everything’s on the “wrong” side of the car and everyone drives on the “wrong” side of the street thing), so it’s either join a tour for that or skip it…and we really want to get to both those places).
Greenwich is REALLY cool!!!! Loved the area (all kinds of ethnic restaurants!)…loved the museums (they were FREE honey, if you’re reading this! The only thing we paid for, besides dinner, was the planetarium show…because how can you not take in a planetarium show at the ROYAL OBSERVATORY?). We didn’t see everything at the National Maritime Museum because we wanted to make sure we got through everything at the Royal Observatory. And we got a later start today than we’d hoped to. The river cruise took a while, too…but it was fun. The crew members told us several times they were NOT interpreters, they were “crew members,” but they sure did a lot of “interpreting” for us. (BTW, the River Thames isn’t as wide as I would’ve expected it to be.)
We did manage to see everything at the Royal Observatory, though…`I was especially interested in all the old time pieces! And I enjoyed reading the British version of the origins of Daylight Savings Time. (Oh, I lied, honey…we spent a pound to get the official documentation with the time stamp saying we were at the Prime Meridian!) We got the obligatory photos taken at the Prime Meridian and then walked around Greenwich park for a while. Interesting trees in there…and a site that marks “Roman ruins.”
We had dinner at a Thai restaurant in Greenwich…we’ve learned some things about dining in Britain. One, they don’t bring you your check…you have to ask for it. And two, the waiters/waitresses don’t expect to be tipped! AT ALL! I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a spot for it on the credit card receipt. The place we ate at yesterday had a bowl by the cash register for tips, so I put my tip in there…but at the Thai restaurant there was nothing. Nowhere. When I asked about it, the guy at the cash register handed me a little plate (like what they put the bill on…if they bring you a bill, so I put my tip there. Since we’re just dumb American tourists, we asked at the hotel about tipping…that’s where we learned people don’t usually tip in restaurants. It’s nice if you do, but it’s certainly not expected.
We bought a 7-day all you can ride public transportation card in Greenwich, so next on our agenda was figuring out the Underground system. It wasn’t too difficult. What was an hour and a half or so journey on the river took no more than half an hour on the Underground…and that included changing trains (and having to walk a bit to the other train platform). I wish we had public transportation like this in the states!
Hopefully we’ll be up earlier tomorrow…we’re going to try and do the Globe Theater and Tower of London.
It’s funny…though I’m here with College Student and this is supposed to be our time together before he goes away, I find myself thinking about Junior High Kid a lot. Junior High Kid would like this…Junior High Kid would like that…even, hey, Junior High Kid (who is a picky eater!) would’ve liked this carvery/pasta place! But…his turn is coming. He may choose to come to London, too…in which case I’ll do some of these things with him, too (and different things, too, because he’s into different things than College Student is)…or maybe he’ll choose a whole different place to go when it’s his turn and then I’ll think about College Student.